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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1971 (SND Vol. VIII).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

SPIEL, n., v. Also speel, speal, speil, spell; -spel. [spil; sm.Sc. + spel]

I. n. 1. Any sort of game or play (s.Sc. 1825 Jam.). Comb. ba-sp(i)el. See Ba', n.1, 3. (8).Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 433:
A boor who takes his meat well is said to play a good speil at the porridge coag.
Lnk. 1893 T. Stewart Miners 88:
But see hoo they sport yet an' relish a speel.

2. Specif. a curling match (G all. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 333). Gen.Sc. Cf. Bonspiel. Freq. in comb. pairish spiel.Kcb. 1789 D. Davidson Seasons 163:
Then tye your crampets, Glenbuck cries — Prepare ye for the speal.
Ayr. 1810 J. Fisher Winter Season 74:
With tramps, and brooms, and stones, a crowd now comes, with jocund glee, the long projected speel to play.
Sc. 1831 Blackwood's Mag. (Dec.) 972:
Bonspeils or bonspels, in contradistinction to spiels, which may be defined to imply a game or match between members of the same society, or of a limited party of adversaries, are matches between rival parishes or districts.
Sc. 1864 J. C. Shairp Kilmahoe 183:
We'll hie to the spiel, as our fathers afore us.
Gall. 1908 M. M. Harper Rambles 27:
These curling spiels in Carlingwark Loch.
Dmf. 1937 T. Henderson Lockerbie 69:
When the parish spiel was pit aff frae a Friday till a Saturday because the ice was ower drug.
Rnf. 1965 T. E. Niven East Kilbride 113:
A favourite howff for bygone generations of curlers after a day-long spiel on the Common Dam.
Dmf. 1967 Dmf. & Gall. Standard (25 Nov.) 8:
A spiel between Scottish and Canadian curlers at the Ayr Ice Rink.

II. v. tr. and intr. To sport, play, take amusement (Sc. 1825 Jam.).Fif. 1873 J. Wood Ceres Races 6, 43:
While weel-faured groups frae ilka yirth, Gang skelping on to speel their mirth . . . A dizzen gude hae ceased to speel, At which the croods are sneering weel.

[Mid.Du., M.L.Ger. spel, n. spelen, v., (to) play. The phonology suggests early borrowing, though evidence is not available. The cog. O.E. spilian, to play, became obs. in Early Mid.Eng. See also Speel, v.2]

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"Spiel n., v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 May 2024 <>



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